Sunday, February 12, 2012

National Bestseller’s 2012 Longlist

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: I’ve grown to love literary award longlists because they always seem to contain at least a dozen books or manuscripts worth investigating. And I especially enjoy the National Bestseller longlist because it notes each book’s nominator. Some interesting bits for 2012:

Most of this year’s 45 nominators seem to stick to the award’s main principle of recognizing and promoting writers whose books haven’t—yet—become bestsellers. Even if this is only the third consecutive year, it seems that someone nominates Viktor Pelevin every damn year: this year critic Veronika Emelina did the honors, nominating Pelevin’s S.N.U.F.F., which (I wouldn’t-couldn’t make this up), as I post on February 12, 2012, tops the sales lists on

Last year’s Yasnaya Polyana award winner, Mikhail Tarkovskii, was nominated for Распилыш, which drew my attention because it was first on the list and because its title is rooted in words related to sawing, like распил (saw cut) and распилить (to saw up). (Translation credit: Oxford Russian-English dictionary.) It turns out that распилыш (raspilysh) is a term for used Japanese cars that are imported to Russia in pieces, to avoid import duties. The things I learn through these book titles! Appropriately, Tarkovskii’s book was nominated by Vasilii Avchenko, author of Правый руль (Wheel on the Right), a book about, yes, Japanese used cars in the Russian Far East.

Three books were nominated twice: Aleksandr Grigorenko’s Мэбэт. История человека тайги (Mebet. The Story of a Person from the Taiga), a book Lev Danilkin says is initially difficult to read because it’s filled with unfamiliar terminology and names, though he says the text in this novel about a favorite of the gods quickly becomes transparent. The other books nominated twice are Nataliia Sokolovskaia’s Любовный канон (something like The Love Canon), a collection of stories, and Anna Starobinets’s Живущий, a novel in which all of humanity becomes the one living organism of the title. Yikes!

Two books were written by writers who will be at the East Cost “Primary Sources” events I mentioned in last week’s post: Irina Bogatyreva’s Товарищ Анна (Comrade Anna), a story collection that sounds like fun, and Alisa Ganieva’s manuscript Праздничная гора, which could be something like Holiday Mountain or Festive Mountain. I’ll try to remember to ask her about it!

What else? I was more than ecstatic to see that Vladislav Otroshenko’s manuscript of the collection Языки Нимродовой башни (The Languages of Nimrod’s Tower) was nominated: I’m finishing a translation of the title story. I was also very happy to see Roman Senchin’s Информация (The Information), which friends just brought me from Moscow. And I’ve enjoyed reading Iurii Buida, so was glad to find his Жунгли (The Jungle), a collection of stories, on the list.

Three others: Lev Danilkin nominated Vladimir Mikushevich’s Таков ад (perhaps a jaunty That’s Hell for You... for some reason, I like this book’s title), a collection of stories Danilkin says are strange, carnivalistic apocryphal works; his blurb gives the impression that they are both funny and fun. Finally, one author, Aleksei Nikitin, had two books nominated: Истеми (İstemi), a NOSE longlister about students in 1984 who create a geopolitical game, and Маджонг (Mahjong), which sounds even more cryptic, with its sleep/wake theme.

Another Author Event Note: Writer Andrey Kurkov will be making several appearances in New York and Connecticut this month: the evening of February 21st at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, CT; noon on February 23rd at the Harriman Institute in NYC, and the evening of February 23rd at Partners & Crime Bookstore in NYC. I didn’t even realize Melville House has brought out another of Kurkov’s books: the new book is The Case of the General’s Thumb.

Disclosures: I have met or translated work by several writers mentioned in this post.

Up next: Gleb Shul’pyakov’s Фес (Fez), which was a somewhat disappointing up-and-down experience, Alisa Ganieva’s Salam, Dalgat!, an ever-growing translation roundup, and Petersburg-Leningrad.


  1. That's interesting about Распилыш! I vote for "hack job" as a translation. "We got a new load of hack jobs in last week." Or, one could invent a word based on the concept of a "chop shop". (My dad used to own a junkyard and I wrote a novel about it. I love car terminology!)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Andrea G.! I'm glad you enjoyed that title -- it was funny to search for the meaning. I actually kind of like the idea of a title playing on "chop shop," if only because I have fond memories of learning the term from a friend who joked that her father had one in their backyard! The Russian word is pretty specialized... I was convinced it must have something to do with sawing/cutting wood because the author lives in the Enisei area, which made me think of timber, plus I asked two native speakers, neither of whom was familiar with the word.